What to prepare for when you’re expecting one of Murakami’s mammoths

by

Special To The Japan Times

Haruki Murakami has put scientists to shame. Harvard geneticists recently announced that they are two years away from bringing the wooly mammoth back from extinction, while Murakami is releasing his latest mammoth tonight: His novel “Kishidancho Goroshi” will be published in two 500-page volumes via Shinchosha and given the English title “Killing Commendatore,” according to the publisher’s website.

Shinchosha has highlighted the fact that this is the 68-year-old Murakami’s first honkakuteki (“full-fledged”) novel in seven years since 2009’s “1Q84,” although he has kept busy in the interim. Murakami published the shorter “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” in 2013 with publisher Bungeishunju, and a collection of short stories titled “Men Without Women” in 2014, so he likely put his most recent work together in three short years.

What should readers be expecting with this new release? Ever since spoilers leaked for 2002’s “Kafka on the Shore,” Murakami has kept plot details a tight secret, but as a writer he has several tendencies.

In terms of the story, readers can expect Murakami to begin in the past. The author often has characters contemplating their history as they gear up to move forward into the telling of their story, as in “Norwegian Wood,” “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki,” “A Wild Sheep Chase” and “Dance Dance Dance.”

He also takes his time getting into things. In “1Q84” he forced readers to sit through a whole first chapter in a taxi with the main character Aomame as she talks to the driver who dishes out obscure prophecies, and in “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” the narrator spends a good chunk of the first chapter waiting in an elevator, just thinking things over and literally counting the change in his pockets. You can’t rush Murakami, nor can you edit him, or so it seems.

You can also expect the author to dish out many of his pet vocabulary words. He’s favored ibitsu (warped, distorted), which he used to describe the moon in “1Q84” as well as a character’s head. He also likes usankusai (fishy, suspicious), especially with regards to secret plots and assassinations, which seems like it might be fitting given the title of this latest work.

And I’m not sure it would be a proper Murakami novel without a dose of the phrase yare yare (good grief, oh dear), which fits the wry humor of the narrators of his earlier novels more than recent characters, but still finds a way into his books.

No translation of the novel has been announced, but given Murakami’s popularity, it’s difficult to imagine it not being rendered into languages that span the globe. Readers should expect to wait a couple of years to find it on the shelves of their local bookstores in a language they can understand.

“Kishidancho Goroshi” (“Killing Commendatore”) goes on sale at midnight on Feb. 24. The Japan Times will publish Daniel Morales’ review of the book next month.